Cybersecurity experts with the Illinois National Guard will be on standby during next month's elections to assist with any suspected security breaches, state election officials said Tuesday.
(TNS) — Cybersecurity experts with the Illinois National Guard will be on standby during next month's elections to assist with any suspected security breaches, state election officials said Tuesday.
It is part of the additional security arrangements put in place this year after the 2016 incident of Russian hackers subjected the state's election office to a cyberattack.
"In the immediate aftermath of that incident, we implemented new cybersecurity policies and procedures to guard against a future attack," said Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the state Board of Elections. "The Department of Homeland Security has advised election officials across the country to expect more such attempts to disrupt elections this year."
Sandvoss said work has been done to enhance cybersecurity both at the Board of Elections office in Springfield and in all 108 local election authority offices. That includes the state hiring three cybersecurity specialists; it will be launching a cybernavigator program that uses federal funding to assist local authorities in putting in place the latest cybersecurity practices.
The efforts also include tapping into cybersecurity experts with the Illinois National Guard to assist when a cybersecurity attack is suspected, either before election day or on election day itself. Already 20 other states have agreements with their National Guard units to provide cybersecurity support to their election authorities.
"The Illinois National Guard has quite a bit of robust cyber-capability that we've had for many years," said Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes Jr., adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard. "We're in a role to posture ourselves to support the entire state Board of Elections and the counties should they need assistance during the time in which the election proceeds."
Hayes described the National Guard specialists as a back-up team to the group employed by the Board of Elections.
"The skill sets we bring are much like the skill sets we already have in the state, we just have a broader set of people available," he said.
Hayes said they number in the hundreds. He said their backgrounds are in protecting Department of Defense systems from cyberattacks.
In July 2016, Illinois election officials noticed unusual activity surrounding the statewide voter registration database. They discovered a flaw in the security system and fixed it. Federal authorities discovered it was Russian hackers that got into the system. No records were changed, nor were any votes altered.
Since then the state has beefed up its own cybersecurity efforts and hired people to visit all 108 local election authorities to advise them on how to improve their own cybersecurity efforts.
"I'd say we're prepared," said William Cadigan, chairman of the state Board of Elections. "We're as prepared as we can be right now."
©2018 The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.